In my last post, I began the topic of Shavuot by showing how we all as believers in Messiah are made part of the House of Israel by being grafted into the olive tree. As members of Israel, the Torah –or God’s Word—is, indeed, for us too! In this post, we will talk about the giving of first fruits at Shavuot and how we can offer our own first fruits to God.
Leviticus 23 summarizes the feasts – or appointed times – that YHVH calls us to celebrate. The below verses are describing Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the bringing of the first fruits at Shavuot (highlighted portion).
“These are the appointed times of YHVH, set-apart gatherings which you are to proclaim at their appointed times. ‘In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, between the evenings, is the Passover to YHVH. And on the fifteenth day of this month is the Festival of Unleavened Bread to YHVH – seven days you eat unleavened bread. On the first day you have a set-apart gathering, you do no servile work. And you shall bring an offering made by fire to YHVH for seven days. On the seventh day is a set-apart gathering, you do no servile work.’
“And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and you shall say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I give you, and shall reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before YHVH, for your acceptance. On the morrow after the Sabbath the priest waves it. And on that day when you wave the sheaf, you shall prepare a male lamb a year old, a perfect one, as a burnt offering to YHVH, and its grain offering: two-tenths of an ĕphah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to YHVH, a sweet fragrance, and its drink offering: one-fourth of a hin of wine. And you do not eat bread or roasted grain or fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your Elohim – a law forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
“And from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, you shall count for yourselves: seven completed Sabbaths. Until the morrow after the seventh Sabbath you count fifty days, then you shall bring a new grain offering to YHVH. Bring from your dwellings for a wave offering two loaves of bread, of two-tenths of an ĕphah of fine flour they are, baked with leaven, first-fruits to YHVH. And besides the bread, you shall bring seven lambs a year old, perfect ones, and one young bull and two rams. They are a burnt offering to YHVH, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet fragrance to YHVH. And you shall offer one male goat as a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old, as a peace offering. And the priest shall wave them, besides the bread of the first-fruits, as a wave offering before YHVH, besides the two lambs. They are set-apart to YHVH for the priest. And on this same day you shall proclaim a set-apart gathering for yourselves, you do no servile work on it – a law forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” Leviticus 23:4-21
Counting of the Omer
The counting of the omer begins on the first Shabbat after Passover. An omer is a unit of measurement. During the counting of the omer, an omer-measurement of barley was offered in the Temple every day until Shavuot. You count 7 full weeks…meaning you count 49 days. The 50th day is Shavuot – many might know this as Pentecost which is Greek for “50” or “the 50th day”; in Hebrew Shavuot means “weeks”.
The importance of counting the omer is oftentimes overlooked. But one way to look at it, is that counting the omer is an important part of preparation for Shavuot. It was on Shavuot when the children of Israel received the Torah and, later, the prophetic outpouring of the Spirit read about in Acts 2.
One thing we as Americans have a hard time understanding is the concept of preparation and the time we spend waiting as we prepare. We want to rush through seasons and don’t understand the profound nature of waiting. As we count each day of the omer, it creates a sense of expectancy within us. If we truly take the time to count the omer, we will not try to rush forward from Passover to Shavuot and miss the lessons that can only be found in the waiting of preparation. Instead, we will learn to walk out each day and live in every moment as we wait for the appointed time. It makes waiting seem less difficult as we begin to see the importance of every, single day and the role each day plays in getting us to the ultimate goal.
Shavuot is the day that the children of Israel received the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is a holiday that in modern times is unfortunately overlooked. However, this is certainly no small festival and there is great reason to rejoice and celebrate. In fact, this is one of 3 feasts that YHVH required us to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate; sounds like this feast is VERY important to YHVH.
In order to come before YHVH, the children of Israel had to prepare for 49 days, including having to refrain from anything that would make them unclean in the final 3 days. For those that were obedient, their reward was the gift of the Torah. We talked last week how important the Torah is; how Torah tells us what sin is, how it lights our path, directs our steps, and allows us to draw closer to YHVH. No wonder Shavuot is so important to YHVH.
Later, we read in Acts 2 of the disciples who, just days before had been walking with the resurrected Messiah, were celebrating Shavuot. We are told they were all gathered together of one mind to celebrate Shavuot. Had they not been keeping Torah and been obedient to YHVH’s commands to keep His feasts, they would not have been at the right place at the right time in order to receive the prophetic spirit of Joel 2. We will talk more about this in another post.
In ancient times, the grain harvest lasted seven weeks (49 days) and was a season of gladness. It began with the harvesting of the barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of the wheat at Shavuot. Shavuot was thus the concluding festival of the grain harvest. During this time of first fruits, an offering of two loaves of bread from the wheat harvest is made on Shavuot.
Bikkurim, Ceremony of First Fruits
Shavuot was also the first day on which individuals could bring the Bikkurim (first fruits) to YHVH. The Bikkurim were brought from the Seven Species for which the Land of Israel is praised in Deuteronomy 8:8: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.
In the primarily farming society of ancient Israel, Hebrew farmers would tie a reed around the first ripening fruits from each of these species in their fields. At the time of harvest, the fruits identified by the reed would be cut and placed in baskets woven of gold and silver. The baskets would then be loaded on oxen whose horns were gilded and laced with garlands of flowers, and who were led in a grand procession to Jerusalem. As the farmer and his entourage passed through cities and towns, they would be accompanied by music and parades.
The ceremony of Bikkurim conveys the children of Israel’s gratitude to God for His provisions, for the first fruits of the field, for His guidance throughout the year in their own lives, and for His guidance for the nation as a whole.
Shavuot & Firstfruits in Our Own Lives
Are we offering YHVH our best? Are we offering Him our firstfruits? Are we giving Him our best or are we scraping the bottom of the barrel? Psalm 106 is a good reminder to us to stop allowing other things to take precedence over YHVH. It is a reminder to offer up to YHVH our first fruits from a thankful heart; not just on Shavuot, but every day.
“Praise Yah! Oh, give thanks to YHVH, For He is good! For His kindness is everlasting. Who does relate the mighty acts of YHVH? Or declare all His praise? Blessed are those who guard right-ruling, Who do righteousness at all times! Remember me, O YHVH, in the acceptance of Your people; visit me with Your deliverance, to see the good of Your chosen ones, to rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, to make my boast with Your inheritance. We have sinned with our fathers. We have acted perversely; we have done wrong. Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; they did not remember Your many kindnesses, but rebelled by the sea, the Sea of Reeds. But He saved them for His Name’s sake, to make known His might. And He rebuked the Sea of Reeds, and it dried up; And He led them through the depths, through a wilderness. And He saved them from the hand of the hater, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed His words; they sang His praise. They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel, but greedily lusted in the wilderness, And tried God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness within their being. They forgot God their Savior, the Doer of great deeds in Egypt.” Psalm 106: 1-15; 21
We read throughout the Bible of YHVH’s faithfulness and loving-commitment; we read of how He never fails us and we tend to focus on that when we need something. But do we ever stop to think about how we fail Him? How we don’t always show Him the same loving-commitment or faithfulness He shows us?
We put others before our relationship with Him. We let other things get in the way of drawing near to Him. We let our emotions cloud our vision till it’s so small there isn’t room for anything else. And then, after we have reached a point of desperation, we remember Him. We remember His faithfulness and His loving-commitment. He has been there the whole time waiting for us; beckoning us to draw ever-nearer to Him.
Why don’t we wait? Why do we let so many other things get in the way? Why do we so easily forget the wonders He has done in our own lives? We read how the children of Israel forgot the wonders and miracles of YHVH and we think that we could somehow do a better job than they did. But there is nothing new under the sun…would we really be any different?
“They then despised the pleasant land; They did not believe His word, and they grumbled in their tents, they did not listen to the voice of YHVH. So He lifted up His hand in an oath against them, to make them fall in the wilderness”Psalm 106: 24-26
“They did not destroy the peoples, as YHVH had commanded them, but mixed with the surrounding nations and learned their works, and served their idols, and they became a snare to them. And they slaughtered their sons and their daughters to demons, and they shed innocent blood; the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they offered to the idols of Canaan; and the land was defiled with blood. So they became unclean by their own works, and went whoring by their own deeds. And the wrath of YHVH burned against His people, and He loathed His own inheritance.”Psalm 106:34-40
Put aside the iPhone. Turn off the TV. Get off the couch. Stop letting family and friends interrupt your time with YHVH. Put Him first and see what a difference it makes. What would happen if we cultivated our relationship with Him as much as we do our Facebook “friends?” Why do we faithfully watch our favorite TV show and never miss an episode but constantly miss or cut short our time with God? Why do we always have time for the things that don’t really matter but never seem to have enough time to worship our King? I am guilty of all these things too.
“Many times He delivered them; but they rebelled in their own plans. So they were brought low for their crookedness. But He would look on their distress, when He heard their cry, and remember His covenant for their sake, and relent according to the greatness of His kindness. And He would let them find compassion, before all those holding them captive. Save us, O YHVH our Elohim, and gather us from among the nations to give thanks to Your set-apart Name. To exult in Your praise. Blessed be YHVH Elohim of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ Praise Yah!”Psalm 106:43-48
We cannot let the distractions of this life trip us up. Why do we think we are the exception to the rule? That we can put other things before YHVH and not call them an idol? Why do we think we are invincible or that the rules and standards somehow don’t apply to us? Time is short and our calling and purpose too important. If we are not prepared, YHVH will find another. He won’t have time in the middle of the battle to call a time-out and get you prepared; you have to be trained and ready to go when the battle begins!
When the battle starts, I want to take my place fighting alongside my King! I don’t want to be put on the side lines, thinking the entire time how if I had just shut off the distractions or gotten off the couch I could be fulfilling the role and destiny I was meant to play. How incredibly sad would that be? Let’s vow to be ready. Let’s make more of an effort to build, strengthen, and prioritize our relationship with YHVH. Isn’t He worth it? Doesn’t He deserve more than our half-hearted attempt?
He deserves our first fruits.
This is part 2 of 5 in the Shavuot series.